Combining Natural and Artificial Light on Location for Portraits

Discover the secrets to capturing exceptional environmental portraits.

Business and environmental portraits are a staple for many photographers. Here’s how to tackle them on location.

In this photography class, Karl creates an environmental portrait in his own studio reception area. Working with mixed lighting, he explains what to consider and how to effectively balance multiple light sources. He walks you through the entire process from start to finish, showing you how, why and where to position those lights for best effect.

For those wanting to create their own environmental portraits, this photography class is a must-watch. Why? Because it reveals a number of useful photography tips and tricks. It also shows how to effectively work on location, where you often have to combine natural and artificial light.

In this photography class:

  • Studio photography: How to take business portraits
  • Environmental business portrait using mixed light
  • Creative three light photography setup
  • Controlling shutter speed, aperture and flash
  • How to photograph on location

For more on how to take effective business portraits, check out Business Portraiture and Headshots.


  1. Very useful class. But talking about light physics, why that fill light is not showing reflection on the glass of the stairs even though it is almost pointed directly on the glass from that angel.

    1. Hi Kamal, thank you. The stairs are at an angle to me and just outside the angle of reflectance. We have a class coming soon cover this topic in detail.

  2. hi Karl. I run in to same issue. I got my self siros 800L ….. when I was shooting in hotel room my light was to strong becouse I want to keep my aperture around 1.8 – 2.0…. what is the other way to reduce light beside replace for siros 400L. ????? what if I put one more defuser on soft box? will it help?
    I deside to go with siros 800l cz of its power, but in this case its to much and with my little experience I didn’t expect to run in to this problem lol.

    1. Hi Walter, I think I mentioned in a previous reply to you but you will need to consider a high quality glass ND filter to go on the camera lens or ND gels to go on the lights and set your ISO very low.

  3. Hi Karl,

    I have started a new job creating environmental portraiture for an audio brand and this tutorial was perfect as this is a situation I am often faced with, shooting indoors, sometimes quite dark locations and having to create my own natural light using strobes.

    I was wondering with this particular shot, how would you alter the lighting, if for instance you have to photograph Lydia sitting on the pink sofa with the window in the background and the weather outside was particularly dull and dark making the room dark.

    As I am often faced with situations where rooms are dark and I want to imitate bright warm natural light to give the photographs that natural light commercial feel.

    Any tips would be amazing!

    All the best,


    1. Hi Sarah, I would say if the weather was duller I would have still done it the same as I wanted to use the light from the window to hit her and the shot to look like natural light. I have done another shoot on the pink sofa that you might be interested to see I guess if I was to describe how I would work though is I mostly look at the scene/room and think about ‘what will work compositionally’ and then I figure out how to light that.

  4. Great lesson Karl, the last light you added made a great difference!

    I have a non-technical question, at the beginning you mention that you would not tether when doing business shoot, is there any specific reason I should be considering? thanks in advance and again, thanks for the awesome training videos


    1. Hi Raul, I do tether when doing business shots in my studio? If I’m on location I might do if I had enough time but generally you are trying to work quicker and sometimes if the client can see you shooting tethered then they can get quite nosy!

  5. Ok, so it was a tricky one. . . great for a first client head shot job!

    I was syncing at 1/200 to /1/160th for sharp images but yes, I could maybe have gone slower.

    Cheers Karl for the reply.

    The training is excellent by the way. So valuable and so thorough in explanation as to ‘why’ it has helped me a lot!

    Best regards


  6. Hi Karl,
    I was asked to do some corporate head shots the other day and experienced the following problem. . .

    I was in poorly lit room with shaded window light from an adjoining office building. . .
    To set my ambient exposure I had to dial in an ISO of 1600 making the light sensitivity high for any flash.

    I set up my softbox and studio light (Bron Siros L) in restricted space had to be quite close to the subject and consistently kept getting an overexposure of the subject.

    Whats more, the room was all glass like a smart corner office and client requested I include the office environment behind, which had no natural light and was darker in ambient than the room I was in – This meant my current settings made the office behind look dark. I could not place a light in that office.

    Siros was on power 2 and still too strong. Tried flash and same due to high ISO.

    Was this just me or a tricky Corporate head shot environment?

    How could I have dealt with it better please?

    Kind regards


    1. Hi James, it sounds like a tricky one but it also sounds that the underlying problem was not being able to control the flash power because of the ISO being too high. Obviously I wasn’t there so it is difficult to say, potentially you could have reduced the ISO but increased the shutter speed to record more ambient light and this would not have had an affect on the flash power.

  7. Hi Karl,
    Why don’t you put the camera on the tripod and turn the live view on and set your framing just to make things faster. After that you can chick your lighting options.

  8. Hi Karl. If you had too much natural light, from something like a large glass wall that affected the entire building, and too big to use anything to reduce the actual light coming in, would you use a ND filter? Or would you close down your aperture sacrificing the shallow depth of field and the shot you wanted? I really liked how you made the images contemporary and fairly informal, but still very classy and portrayed professionalism.

    1. Hi Mark, I always decide on things like depth of field first, for example if I want f2.8 for creative reasons then that’s what I’m going to go with, if that then requires a change to the light or adding ND filters then that’s what will happen to achieve the initial concept.

  9. About how long would it take you to do a location shot like this for an actual client? One would have to be rather quick and efficient to not irritate the client I should think.

    1. Hi Jason, I would allow at least 45mins to set up my lighting on something like this but I wouldn’t have the client there until i’m ready, I’d always use an assistant or shoot it empty or test on myself until I was ready and then request the client to come in.

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